This study compared the gait characteristics of individuals walking in heat while wearing firefighting equipment in fatigued and non-fatigued states. Nineteen subjects performed a 50-min treadmill protocol in a heated room while gait patterns were recorded using a digital video camcorder. Forty gait cycles were analyzed near the beginning (9 min) and at the end (39-49 min) of exercise. Spatio-temporal gait variables including step frequency, step length, swing time, stance time, cycle time and double-support time were determined. Gait variability was quantified by the standard deviation (SD) and coefficient of variation (CV) of each variable. Left-right symmetry was calculated using the symmetry index (SI) and symmetry angle (SA). Paired t-tests (alpha = 0.05) were performed to identify difference between the beginning and the end of the protocol for each measured variable. Spatio-temporal gait characteristics did not differ between the beginning and the end of exercise. Gait variability of the double-support time increased at the end as measured by both SD (P = 0.037) and CV (P = 0.030) but no change was observed for other variables. Left-right symmetry measured using either SI or SA did not differ between sessions. In summary, spatio-temporal gait characteristics and symmetry while wearing firefighting equipment are insensitive to physiological fatigue. Prolonged walking in heat while wearing firefighting equipment may increase gait variability and therefore the likelihood of a fall. Future studies are needed to confirm the potential relationship between fatigue and gait variability and to investigate the possible influence of individual variation.
Published In/Presented At
Kong PW, Beauchamp G, Suyama J, Hostler D. Effect of fatigue and hypohydration on gait characteristics during treadmill exercise in the heat while wearing firefighter thermal protective clothing. Gait Posture. 2010 Feb;31(2):284-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2009.11.006. Epub 2009 Dec 4.
Medicine and Health Sciences
Toxicology Division, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty, Department of Emergency Medicine